by Max Brantley
You wouldn't know it from the A$aholts of the Arkansas Republican Party, but this NY Times report on the power of gay marriage as a political issue is interesting:
The debate over same-sex marriage was a black-or-white proposition two years ago when voters in 11 states barred gay couples from marrying.
But this year shades of gray are everywhere, as eight more states consider similar ballot measures. Some of the proposed bans are struggling in the polls, and the issue of same-sex marriage itself has largely failed to rouse conservative voters.
In some cases, other issues, like the war in Iraq and ethics in Washington, have seized voters’ attention. But the biggest change, people on both sides of the issue say, is that supporters of same-sex marriage this year are likely to be as mobilized as the opponents.
Proposals like Wisconsin’s are also on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia. And while most of the measures are expected to pass, their emotional force in drawing committed, conservative voters to the polls, many political experts say, has been muted or spent.
Recent polls in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, for example, have suggested only narrow majorities in support, in contrast to the 60 to 70 percent or more majorities in most states that voted on the issue in 2004. Two recent polls in South Dakota suggested that the same-sex marriage amendment might actually lose, while a third said it seemed likely to pass.
“As it stands right now, conservative turnout is not going to be as strong as it has traditionally been,” said Jon Paul, the executive director of Coloradans for Marriage, which is supporting a ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage.
Some pollsters say people might just be burned out on the subject of marriage and its boundaries.
“It doesn’t seem to be salient to what most Tennesseans are concerned about right now,” said Robert Wyatt, the associate director of the Middle Tennessee State University poll.